Detained Saudi womens’ activists branded as traitors – The Globe and Mail

So much for MBS’s efforts to present an image of reform:

Just weeks before Saudi Arabia is set to lift its ban on women driving, the kingdom’s state security said Saturday it had detained seven people who are being accused of working with “foreign entities.” Rights activists say all those detained had worked in some capacity on women’s rights issues, with five of those detained among the most prominent and outspoken women’s rights campaigners in the country.

Pro-government media outlets have splashed their photos online and in newspapers, accusing them of betrayal and of being traitors.

The women activists had persistently called for the right to drive, but stressed that this was only the first step toward full rights. For years, they also called for an end to less visible forms of discrimination, such as lifting guardianship laws that give male relatives final say on whether a woman can travel abroad, obtain a passport or marry.

Their movement was seen as part of a larger democratic and civil rights push in the kingdom, which remains an absolute monarchy where protests are illegal and where all major decision-making rests with the king and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Some state-linked media outlets published the names of those detained, which include Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef and Eman al-Najfan.

Rights activists who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussion say Madeha al-Ajroush and Aisha al-Manae are also among the seven detained. Both took part in the first women’s protest movement for the right to drive in 1990, in which 50 women were arrested for driving and lost their passports and their jobs.

All five women are well-known activists who agitated for greater women’s rights. Several of the women were professors at state-run universities and are mothers or grandmothers.

The Interior Ministry on Saturday did not name those arrested, but said the group is being investigated for communicating with “foreign entities,” working to recruit people in sensitive government positions and providing money to foreign circles with the aim of destabilizing and harming the kingdom.

The stunning arrests come just six weeks before Saudi Arabia is set to lift the world’s only ban on women driving next month.

When the kingdom issued its royal decree last year announcing that women would be allowed to drive in 2018, women’s rights activists were contacted by the royal court and warned against giving interviews to the media or speaking out on social media.

Following the warnings, some women left the country for a period of time and others stopped voicing their opinions on Twitter.

As activists were pressured into silence, Saudi Arabia’s 32-year-old heir to the throne stepped forth, positioning himself as the force behind the kingdom’s reforms.

Human Rights Watch says, however, the crown prince’s so-called reform campaign “has been a frenzy of fear for genuine Saudi reformers who dare to advocate publicly for human rights or women’s empowerment.”

“The message is clear that anyone expressing skepticism about the crown prince’s rights agenda faces time in jail,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Last year, Prince Mohammed oversaw the arrests of dozens of writers, intellectuals and moderate clerics who were perceived as critics of his foreign policies. He also led an unprecedented shakedown of top princes and businessmen, forcing them to hand over significant portions of their wealth in exchange for their freedom as part of a purported anti-corruption campaign.

In an interview with CBS in March, he said that he was “absolutely” sending a message through these arrests that there was a new sheriff in town.

Activists say writer Mohammed al-Rabea and lawyer Ibrahim al-Mudaimigh, two men who worked to support women’s rights campaigners, are also among the seven detained. Al-Mudaimigh defended al-Hathloul in court when she was arrested in late 2014 for more than 70 days for her online criticism of the government and for attempting to bring attention to the driving ban by driving from neighbouring United Arab Emirates into Saudi Arabia.

Those familiar with the arrests say al-Hathloul was forcibly taken by security forces earlier this year from the UAE, where she was residing, and forced back to the kingdom.

In recent weeks, activists say several women’s rights campaigners were also banned from travelling abroad.

Immediately after news of the arrests broke, pro-government Twitter accounts were branding the group as treasonous under an Arabic hashtag describing them as traitors for foreign embassies.

The pro-government SaudiNews50 Twitter account, with its 11.5 million followers, splashed images of those arrested with red stamps over their face that read “traitor” and saying that “history spits in the face of the country’s traitors.”

The state-linked Al-Jazirah newspaper published on its front-page a photo of al-Hathloul and al-Yousef under a headline describing them as citizens who betrayed the nation.

Activists told the AP that some in the group were arrested on Tuesday and at least one person was arrested Thursday. They say the detainees were transferred from the capital, Riyadh, to the city of Jiddah for interrogations where the royal court has relocated for the month of Ramadan.

Activists say it’s not clear why the seven have been arrested now.

via Detained Saudi womens’ activists branded as traitors – The Globe and Mail

Stress From Racism May Be Causing African-American Babies To Die More Often : Shots – Health News : NPR

Ongoing impact from micro-agressions or other factors?

“Black babies in the United States die at just over two times the rate of white babies in the first year of their life,” says Arthur James, an OB-GYN at Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University in Columbus. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for every 1,000 live births, 4.8 white infants die in the first year of life. For black babies, that number is 11.7.

The majority of those black infants that die are born premature, says James, because black mothers like Pierce have a higher risk of going into early labor.

Scientists and doctors have spent decades trying to understand what makes African-American women so vulnerable to losing their babies. Now, there is growing consensus that racial discrimination experienced by black mothers during their lifetime makes them less likely to carry their babies to full term.

James, 65, has seen far too many black babies who didn’t survive.

It just doesn’t seem right, says James, who is also African-American. “You ask yourself the question: What is it about being black that places us at an increased risk for that kind of experience?”

A decades-long quest

Richard David, a neonatologist at the University of Illinois of Chicago, has been studying this for decades. When he first began looking into the problem in the 1980s, he says scientists thought the two main culprits were poverty and lack of education.

“We knew African-American women were more likely to be poor,” says David. “We knew that fewer of them had completed their education by the time they were bearing children.”

But David, who at the time was at the Cook County Hospital in Chicago, and his colleague James Collins at Northwestern University Medical School found that even educated, middle-class African-American women were at a higher risk of having smaller, premature babies with a lower chance of survival.

For example, David says, black and white teenage mothers growing up in poor neighborhoods both have a higher risk of having smaller, premature babies. “They both have something like a 13 percent chance of having a low birth weight baby,” he says.

But in higher-income neighborhoods where women are likely to be slightly older and more educated, “among white women, the risk of low birth weight drops dramatically to about half of that, whereas for African-American women, it only drops a little bit.”

In fact, today, a college-educated black woman like Samantha Pierce is more likely to give birth prematurely than a white woman with a high school degree.

“That’s exactly the kind of case that makes us ask the question: What else is there?” says David. “What are we missing?”

Some people suggested that the root cause may be genetics. But if genes are at play, then women from Africa would also have the same risks. So, David and his colleague, Collins, looked at the babies of immigrant women from West Africa. But as they reported in their 1997 study in The New England Journal of Medicine, those babies were more like white babies — they were bigger and more likely to be full term. So, it clearly isn’t genetics, says David.

Then, many years later, David and Collins noticed something startling. The grandchildren of African immigrant women were born smaller than their mothers had been at birth. In other words, the grandchildren were more likely than African-American babies — more likely to be premature.

This was also true of the grandchildren of black women who had emigrated from the Caribbean.

Meanwhile, the grandchildren of white European immigrant women were bigger than their mothers when they were born. David and Collins published their results in 2002 in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

“So, there was something about growing up black in the United States and then bearing a child that was associated with lower birth weight,” says David.

Growing up black and female in America

What is different about growing up black in America is discrimination, says David. “It’s hard to find any aspect of life that’s not impacted by racial discrimination,” he says. “Whether you’re talking about applying for a job, or purchasing a new car, finding housing, getting education … even given equal education, earning the same amount of money, that doesn’t happen. If you’re black, you tend to get less pay.”

As a recent poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found, 92 percent of African-Americans believe that discrimination against African-Americans exists in America today. Higher education and income did not necessarily mean people experienced less discrimination, the poll found.

In 2004, David and Collins published a study in the American Journal of Public Health in which they reported the connection between a mother’s experience of racism and preterm birth. They asked women about their housing, income, health habits and discrimination. “It turned out that as a predictor of a very low birth weight outcome, these racial discrimination questions were more powerful than asking a woman whether or not she smoked cigarettes,” David says.

Other studies have shown the same results.

via Stress From Racism May Be Causing African-American Babies To Die More Often : Shots – Health News : NPR

Poll: Discrimination Against Women Is Common Across Races, Ethnicities, Identities : NPR

Another in the series of NPR polls on discrimination, with the usual richness of data including the “intersectionality” between race and gender:

Discrimination in the form of sexual harassment has been in the headlines for weeks now, but new poll results being released by NPR show that other forms of discrimination against women are also pervasive in American society. The poll is a collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

For example, a majority (56 percent) of women believe that where they live, women are paid less than men for equal work. And roughly a third (31 percent) say they’ve been discriminated against when applying for jobs because they are women.

Overall, 68 percent of women believe that there is discrimination against women in America today.

The chart below shows that the experience of gender discrimination is not monolithic — women in each racial, ethnic and identity group have particular problems in employment, education, housing and interactions with law enforcement, the courts and government. Several groups of women also avoid seeking health care out of concern they will face discrimination.

On nearly every measure, Native American women had the highest levels of discrimination based on gender. In our series, “You, Me and Them: Experiencing Discrimination in America,” we have highlighted several of these situations, including unfair treatment by the courts in majority-Native areas.

NPR will livestream an expert panel discussion on Native American issues at noon ET on Tuesday.

One of the patterns that emerged from the poll and our subsequent reporting is a gulf between high- and low-income areas when it comes to experiences of discrimination. This gap is also apparent in the gender data crunched by our Harvard team. The graph below illustrates the stark differences based on income when it comes to several everyday experiences people have in their own neighborhoods.

A snapshot in time

Our poll — which was fielded from late January to early April — before this fall’s intense news coverage of sexual harassment — also captures what women were feeling and experiencing before the recent scandals.

We found that 37 percent women overall reported they or a female family member had been sexually harassed because they are women at some point in their lives. But there was a wide range of responses based on age, with 60 percent of those 18 to 29 years old saying they or a female family member had been sexually harassed because they are women, versus 17 percent of women 65 and over.

“Our survey highlights the extraordinary level of personal experiences of harassment facing women today, as reflected in the news,” says Robert Blendon, co-director of the poll and professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard Chan School. “These national conversations may have affected how people viewed or responded to their own experiences in our survey, or their willingness to disclose these experiences.”

Indeed, a poll released last week by Quinnipiac University, asking specifically about sexual assault, suggests women may be more comfortable reporting such experiences now that more women are coming forward and revealing past abuse. (Our poll differs from Quinnipiac in that we asked a broader question: “Do you believe that you or someone in your family who is also a female has experience sexual harassment because you or they are female?”)

The survey from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard Chan School was conducted from Jan. 26 to April 9, 2017 among a nationally representative probability-based telephone (cell and landline) sample of 1,596 women. The margin of error for total female respondents is 4.6 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence interval. Complete methodological information is in the full poll report.

via Poll: Discrimination Against Women Is Common Across Races, Ethnicities, Identities : NPR

The Women Behind The ‘Alt-Right’ : NPR

Interesting account of women drawn into the alt-right:

Many of these women came into the alt-right initially as anti-feminists.

“They were people who felt that the feminist progressive agenda was not serving them — in some cases they felt like it was actively disregarding them because they wanted more traditional things: home, family, etc.,” she says. “And they came into the movement through that channel and then ultimately adopted more pro-white and white nationalist views.”

One of those women was Lana Lokteff, a Russian-American from Oregon who co-runs Red Ice, an alt-right media company, with her Swedish husband, Henrik Palmgren.

The couple decided to make this their cause around 2012, Darby says, when they say they saw a lot of “anti-white sentiment.” Around the time of several high-profile police shootings of young, black men, Lokteff “felt that Black Lives Matter and these other reactive forces were being unfair to white people and that then sort of spun into a conspiracy about how the establishment, so to speak, is out to oppress, minimize and silence white people.”

Lokteff, who promotes alt-right ideologies on the couple’s YouTube channel, has been persistently trolled by the men of the movement. Darby wanted to understand what attracts women to a movement that is often hostile to them.

In her piece, she quotes Andrew Anglin, who runs the (now blacklisted) neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer as saying the white woman’s womb “belongs to the males of society.” And alt-right pioneer Richard Spencer, who acknowledges that women make up a small percentage of the movement, believes women are not suited for some roles in government, reports Mother Jones: “Women should never be allowed to make foreign policy,” he tweeted during the first presidential debate. “It’s not that they’re ‘weak.’ To the contrary, their vindictiveness knows no bounds.”

According to Lokteff and other alt-right women allies she spoke to, Darby says, “It’s not that men who support the alt-right don’t like women, it’s that they see women as fundamentally different than men,” with equally important roles, which are “to perpetuate white bloodlines, to nurture family units, to inculcate those families with pro-white beliefs.”

But the growing contradiction, as Darby points out, “is that people like Lana Lockteff and other women that I spoke to are outspoken.”

She adds, “They sort of see themselves as straddling a line between the male and female norms, because they think that at this point in their movement, the more people they can bring in, the more people they can convince that they are on the right side of history, the better, and that includes appealing to more women.”

To recruit women to the movement, Darby says, the key is to stoke fear.

Asked how she would pitch the alt-right to conservative white women who voted for Trump, but are also wary of being labeled a white supremacist, Lokteff told her, “we have a joke in the alt-right: How do you red-pill someone? (“Red-pill” is their word for converting someone to the cause.) And the punch line was: Have them live in a diverse neighborhood for a while,” Darby says. “She also said that when she is talking to women she reminds them that white women are under threat from black men, brown men, emigrants, and really uses this concept of a rape scourge to bring them in.”

And while there are schisms in the aims of alt-right activists, and how best to get there, she adds, “There are some people — Lana Lokteff being one of them, Richard Spencer of the National Policy Institute — who are really trying to find some semblance of civic legitimacy.”

Source: The Women Behind The ‘Alt-Right’ : NPR

Terry Glavin: Sorry, Canada, when it comes to political leadership it turns out you’re not uniquely feminist

Interesting study by Environics Institute, underlying the importance of data and analysis in challenging assumptions:

Sorry to disappoint you, Canada, but it turns out you’re nowhere near as uniquely feminist in your ideas about political leadership as you seem to think you are. With Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s inaugural gender-parity cabinet, and his Jan. 10 shuffle which the majority of cabinet posts to women, Canada is better than the average, sure.

But when asked whether women are just as qualified to lead their country as men, Canadians are less likely to agree than respondents in such stereotypically macho countries as Spain, Portugal, Italy and Venezuela. Going strictly by the numbers, Canadians are less likely to agree with the proposition than Kenyans.

That’s just one of the surprising findings in a groundbreaking international survey undertaken late last year by the Toronto-based Environics Institute, made available exclusively to the National Post. Involving 62,918 respondents in 60 countries, the Environics survey is the most ambitious of its kind that the institute has ever undertaken.

Here’s another one of its surprises: age and education levels play no clear role in whether people will agree that women are as qualified as men to serve in political leadership positions. In some countries, the older and less educated you are, the more likely you’ll be content with women holding political power.

The Swedes, whose government boasts that it’s “the first feminist government in the world,” are not statistically different than Chileans or Mexicans, or Canadians for that matter. And the rigidly theocratic Saudis, who are notorious for requiring women to cover themselves from head to toe in niqabs and won’t even allow women to drive, come in only slightly below the thoroughly democratic Japanese, who are only barely likely to agree that women are as capable as men in political leadership.

In most countries, there’s not much difference between what women and men say on the subject, either. Here’s a shocker: people who are most emphatic that women are as capable in national leadership positions as men are more likely to cleave simultaneously to the “patriarchal” notion that a man should be the head of the family.

Of the United Nations’ 193 member states, only 19 heads of state or heads of government are women. If this isn’t mainly because of institutional barriers or differences in political systems, and if it doesn’t simply reflect what men want, or what old people want, or what people without much schooling want, then what’s going on?

“It looks like it’s mainly culture,” says Keith Neuman, the Environics Institute’s executive director. Another lesson from the study is that the assumptions Canadians tend to make about certain cultures, and the implications for the status of women, might also be more than just a bit wonky.

“Nobody’s ever asked these questions of all these countries so we didn’t have clear expectations, but what surprised me I guess was the level of support in a number of patriarchal societies. I was surprised by the level of support, for instance, in Latin America,” Neuman told me. “Part of me assumed that it would be the western progressive feminist countries, the countries with the strongest feminist leanings, that would be the counties where people would be be inclined to say, yes, absolutely, women of course are just as qualified as men. That didn’t come out the way I’d expected.”

Globally, nearly eight in ten people are pretty much like Canadians, at least mildly agreeing with the statement: “Women are just as qualified as men to lead our country.” Respondents were given a ‘totally agree’ or ‘totally disagree’ option, to identify responses that were emphatic and not merely indications of a ‘Yeah, sure, whatever’ attitude. Latin America comes in with a higher “totally agree” score than any region in the world, at 85 per cent, exceeding even Western Europe’s 77 per cent average.

But in that same “totally agree” category, Canada comes in at 62 per cent, below Spain (72 per cent), Portugal (71 per cent), Italy (65 per cent), and Kenya (66 per cent).

Cold comfort: at least Canadians score higher than Americans. Only 43 per cent of American respondents “totally” agree. Canada gets to rub it in, too: the United States scores lower than Pakistan, where 48 per cent of respondents “totally” agree.

Unsurprisingly, the Arab countries come in low in the total-agreement category, at 38 per cent of Syrians, for instance, 22 per cent of Algerians, and 24 per cent of the Saudis — roughly half of whom, surprisingly, at least basically agree that women are as qualified to lead as men. Respondents in the East Asian countries came in generally low in “total agreement” with the idea that women are as qualified in politics as men. But the Japanese come in close to the Saudis. While 63 per cent at least agree, only 27 per cent totally agree.

Undertaken in collaboration with Environics Communications and Environics Analytics — two commercial firms in the Environics group — roughly 1,000 people were surveyed in each of the 60 countries in the study. The surveys relied on technology pioneered by Toronto’s RIWI Corp., which gets around the usual recruited online panels by teasing out random samples of country populations through cellular phones and laptop computers. (RIWI has racked up quite a few predictive bullseyes lately, pinpointing the tipping point in Egypt’s popular uprising against dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and correctly forecasting Donald Trump’s electoral college win despite Hillary Clinton’s popular-vote lead in the U.S. presidential elections. RIWI also called the margin of defeat in Italy’s constitutional referendum within a single percentage point last December.)

Source: Terry Glavin: Sorry, Canada, when it comes to political leadership it turns out you’re not uniquely feminist | National Post

Playboy and the False Normalization of the Hijab: Maajid Nawaz

Nawaz provides historical perspective to wearing of the hijab, contrasting liberal and conservative perspectives, which will provoke discussion and debate:

As a reforming secular liberal Muslim, I do not endorse the gender-discriminatory body-shaming and moralizing of the hijab. I will fight fiercely to protect anyone’s right to wear this medieval flag of female “chastity,” but that doesn’t mean I think the wearer is right to do so. Let us not ban the hijab, but let us not glamorize it either. I prefer leaving that to religious conservatives who are fixated on nudity, “modesty,” and female “honor.” This is a conservative, not liberal, view of the human body. Such illiberal, regressive-left promotion of religious conservativism—only for Muslims mind you—is nothing short of exoticized Orientalism rehashed.

 The assumption made by some liberals is that the “authentic” Muslim woman is the hijab-wearing one, while non-hijabis are seen as Westernized, inauthentic Muslims. Likewise, the religious-conservative Muslim assumption equates concealing the female form to “modesty,” as if a woman who shows her hair or reveals her figure is somehow immodest.

This is a not-so-subtle form of bigotry against the female form, and it has real consequences, including rising social-conservative attitudes across Muslim communities around gender and sexual freedom. In too many instances across Muslim-majority societies, including those embedded in Europe, this “modesty theology” has led to slut-shaming of women who do not cover. Worse yet, it can lead to so-called honor killings.

Many non-Muslims simply assume there is only one—conservative—way of being Muslim. But we Muslims are no longer this distant and native “other” that liberals and conservatives can visit once a year to share a bit of falafel.

We are born and raised among you, and Islam is therefore now firmly native to our societies. So judge us by the same progressive standards you reserve for everyone else. We Muslim reformers have to be able to demand the same progressive rights within our communities that are enjoyed by everyone else. Your intervention and interaction with Muslims’ intra-religious debate around these issues is not neutral. A civil war is raging within our communities about the future of Islam for Muslims.

Liberal Muslim theologians such as Britain’s Shaykh Salah al-Ansari, Dr. Usama Hasan, and Pakistan’s Javaid Ghamidi, argue that the hijab is not a religious duty (fard) at all. And that is how it used to be.

Up until the 1980s, the female body was not shamed out of public view in Muslim-majority societies. But from the ’80s onward, theocratic Islamism began replacing Arab socialism as the ideology of resistance against “the West.” This struggle against the “other” necessitated defining what is “ours” and what is “theirs”—and women, of course, were deemed “ours.”

Suddenly, women’s bodies became the red line in a cultural war against the West started by theocratic Islamism. A Not Muslim Enough charade was used to identify “true” Muslims against “Western” stooges. Religious dress codes became a crucial marker in these cultural purity stakes. Any uncovered woman was now deemed loose, decadent, and attention seeking. In short, aligned to the “Western enemy.”

Back to the Playboy shoot: The admirably entrepreneurial Noor Taguri advises younger girls who look up to her to “stay fearless and remember that everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.”

My advice to Noor is: I hope you do the same, sister. Do look up the late great Egyptian feminist Huda Sharawi who truly stepped out of her “comfort zone” when, in 1923, she shocked Muslims everywhere by removing her hijab publicly for the first time.

Within months Muslim women the world over were encouraged to shed this gender-discriminatory medieval throwback to “modesty.” Those were the days when genuine Western progressives supported genuine Muslim feminists.

Muslim Women in the U.K. Are The Most Economically Disadvantaged | TIME

Not surprising given patterns of UK immigration. Comparable numbers in Canada: the unemployment rate of Muslim women is 10 percent higher than Christian women, the participation rate 8 percent lower:

A new report has found that Muslim women are the most economically disadvantaged group in Britain, blighted by the highest level of unemployment compared to other religious and ethnic groups in the country.

Muslims, who make up 4.8% of the population of England and Wales, are more than two times likely to be unemployed compared to the general population. Women make up 65% of economic inactive Muslims are women, compared to 59% across all religions, says the report released by the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee, a cross-party group of British lawmakers.

The report also found that traditional family practices affected Muslim women’s job prospects; 44% of all economically inactive Muslim women were not in work because they were looking after the home, compared to a national average of 16%.

The report says Muslim women looking for work or in employment also face a “triple penalty” of being a woman, part of an ethnic minority and being Muslim. It said Muslim women suffered the “impact of Islamophobia” on women’s job prospects, facing discrimination due to their beliefs, culture or clothing.

“We heard evidence that stereotypical views of Muslim women can act as a barrier to work,” the Committee Chair and Conservative Member of Parliament Maria Miller said in a statement. “The data suggests that in communities these patterns are shifting across generations but we remain concerned that this shift is happening too slowly and that not all Muslim women are being treated equally.”

The committee called on the government to roll out a plan to tackle these inequalities by the end of 2016. They also called for “name-blind recruitment” for all employers, following studies that suggest people with white-sounding names are more likely to get interviews.

Source: Muslim Women in the U.K. Are The Most Economically Disadvantaged | TIME

Quebec police forces have best representation of women in Canada

police-gender-chart-2The companion piece to the analysis of visible minority representation (Police diversity fails to keep pace with Canadian populations). Waiting for the next piece on Indigenous peoples representation:

Quebec’s major police forces have among the highest proportions of female officers in the country, a CBC News analysis has found.

Leading the country is the Montreal Police Service, where nearly 32 per cent of its sworn officers are women.

At the tail end for major cities is the Winnipeg Police Service, where the proportion is less than half of Montreal`s at just under 15 per cent.

Of the 332 RCMP officers in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, less than 11 per cent are women.

For the last three decades, women and girls have formed a slim majorityof Canada’s population, Statistics Canada says.

In May, CBC News surveyed all major municipal, provincial and RCMP divisions in Canada in order to establish a national snapshot of the number of women working in the major law enforcement agencies.

The average proportion of women in these police forces stands at just over 20 per cent.

‘I thought we had done a much better job’

The woman who climbed to the highest rank in the Winnipeg Police Service’s history says she was not expecting these results.

“It was surprising. I thought we had done a much better job at recruiting women,” said former deputy chief Shelley Hart.

“I think there’s so much diversity in our police departments already that compared to what they were 38 years ago when I started, that everybody … sees policing as an option,” she said.

Hart believes that part of the challenge for some forces has been a general drop in applicants.

“Members of the public, young people, they sit back and think, do I want to be in the line of fire and have that kind of scrutiny on the decisions I make and the level of disrespect and violence on the street now and do they look at it now as one of those occupations that is desirable?” she said.

Danny Smyth, Winnipeg’s deputy chief, says he’s unsure how Montreal has managed to close the gender gap to such a degree, but despite the numbers his force has been actively recruiting women for years.

“In the ’90s we made some specific efforts; there was a time when we put in a full class that was exclusively women. I don’t know if other cities have done that and perhaps it’s something we may consider in the future again to bring more parity.”

He says the Winnipeg Police Service does not have set targets for gender recruiting, but it has set objectives for hiring more Indigenous officers.

Women bring ‘different perspectives’

Const. Nancy Roussel, spokesperson for the Quebec City Police Service, says while she knew women were relatively well represented, she was not aware of where they stood compared to their peers.

“If we consider [27.7 per cent] as a good score, then yes we’re happy, however, we haven’t undertaken any specific initiatives to target women. … The process doesn’t give preference to women,” she said.

“Throughout every level of the organization, the presence of more women brings forward different perspectives,” she said.

Source: Quebec police forces have best representation of women in Canada – Canada – CBC News

Why targets and data trump wishing and hoping in gender parity battle: Joanne Stanley

Indeed:

For those of us still working for full gender equality in Canadian society, there were two extraordinary announcements out of Ontario recently that deserved more fanfare than they initially received.

The first was from Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Ted McMeekin, indicating that he would leave his cabinet position in order to help Premier Kathleen Wynne achieve gender parity. It is rare in the quest for equality for a member of the dominant group to altruistically set aside self-interest to achieve a larger goal. He said he was inspired by his own daughters to take this step. He also said he was dreaming of the day when questions of gender parity won’t even arise any more.

Many of us share this dream, including Ms. Wynne herself. Her announcement of new gender-diversity targets to ensure more women have the opportunity to reach top leadership positions at government organizations gives a clear indication that she is not prepared to tolerate the glacial pace of the march toward equality. It is a welcome interruption not only for government, but also for the signal it sends to the business community that similar behaviour will be expected from them.

This announcement is powerful for two reasons. First, it sets the drive to parity in an economic context. The linkages between diversity and an organization’s capacity for innovation and good governance are indisputable. Many leading corporations governments understand this and aim to build fully inclusive organizations, yet relatively few have set targets and made commitments to report on progress as forthrightly as Ms. Wynne has. We hope her leadership is emulated.

In the struggle for diversity and inclusion, numbers matter. That’s the second reason this announcement is so powerful. Substantive change rarely happens by accident. Rather, it is accomplished by knowing your current position and setting targets and strategies for improvement. When Ontario achieves its target of ensuring that women make up at least 40 per cent of all provincial boards and agency appointments, substantive change will ensue. This is a vastly more intelligent approach than simply talking about equality as a philosophical concept and hoping that it will take care of itself.

Measuring, setting targets and reporting progress is a proven alternative to wishing and hoping. It is a strategy that Women in Communications and Technology itself has adopted to make change happen in Canada’s digital economy. We’ve been talking about the need for stronger engagement of women for years. And yet, for at least a generation, our gender rate has been stuck at around 25 per cent.

So WCT created an “Up the Numbers” initiative, which will invite digital companies (in broadcasting, communications and technology) to share their gender data with us. We will aggregate this data into an annual report that will track our industry’s progress toward parity. It will also provide a focus for industry-wide initiatives to get us there.

Not only is this a more productive approach, it is also bolder. As soon as an important step toward equality is taken, detractors will object. They predictably haul out time-worn arguments about merit. But these are usually transparent attempts to defend privilege. If after nearly a century of female enfranchisement and a revolution in women’s education we really believe that corporate boards with no women on them or industries where men outnumber women by four to one reflect a “merited” level of female inclusion, then our attempts at nation-building have failed.

So hats off to Mr. McMeekin and Ms. Wynne, and to all those private- and public-sector organizations working intelligently to end the conversation about gender equality by finally achieving it.

Source: Why targets and data trump wishing and hoping in gender parity battle – The Globe and Mail

The complicated task of getting more women involved in politics

The debate over how to get more women involved in politics, contrasting the NDP’s Kennedy Stewart’s private members bill linking election expense reimbursement with female candidate share with Michelle Rempel’s encouragement and education approach:

Mr. Stewart’s academic research has shown that the party selection processes are biased, and that men are five times more likely to win nominations just because the selectors are biased against women.

So, the problem is with the political parties, and their old-boy networks and structures.

Equal Voice, a non-partisan group that advocates for more elected women, notes that only 32 per cent of candidates in last year’s federal election were women.

Based on the formula in his bill, Mr. Stewart says $1.25-million would be deducted from the Conservatives’ reimbursement for the 2015 election, because 20 per cent of their candidates were female; the Liberals, with 31 per cent female candidates, would lose about $900,000, and the NDP, which ran 43 per cent female candidates, would have lost about $200,000.

Mr. Stewart’s bill was debated earlier this month in the Commons; it comes back for a vote in September.

Some note that, even if it passes, the desired change might not come. Equal Voice says that in France, for example, the major parties will simply take the financial hit.

For Ms. Rempel, the bill would not make “real change.” She says women need to be educated on how to win nominations – raising money, dealing with the media, and building networks – to prepare them for the “fiery furnace” of a federal election. She believes going through rigorous internal party vetting is a positive exercise for women.

“The propensity is – and frankly you see it in all political parties in Canada – I don’t want to see women that are thrown into non-winnable ridings just to be a token so that [the party] is not financially penalized,” she says. “I think that actually takes women a step back.”

She fears a bill such as Mr. Stewart’s will change the calibre of women in the Commons: “There are women in our House of Commons across party lines that have really strong CVs or really strong life experiences. All of the women that are in the House of Commons are there because they won elections, full stop. They are not there because of tokenism.”

The NDP has the strongest female representation in caucus (41 percent), the Conservatives the weakest (17 percent, identical to 2011 election), the Liberals 27 percent.

Source: The complicated task of getting more women involved in politics – The Globe and Mail